The Biggest Subway System on Earth Now Takes Mobile Payments

January 22, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

That morning commute can be a bear, no matter how you make it. For public transportation users, there are plenty of pluses and minuses to consider. The biggest subway system on Earth—the Shanghai subway system—has made one great step forward in the plus column to add convenience to the trip. The addition came about thanks to a new move letting customers use quick response (QR) codes to pay for a trip via UnionPay or, you guessed it, Alipay.

It may surprise you to find the largest subway system on Earth in Shanghai, but given reports that the system actually carries more users than the entire population of Hong Kong daily, that makes it clear how much volume this system sees daily. That makes the notion of speeding up lines likely a welcome one for riders and subway officials alike, and Shanghai metro will have just such a tool on hand.

QR code readers are being put in play at all 389 metro stations, and at least two gates will have “scan, pay and pass” functionality at east station. That number is likely to increase, and more payment providers will be brought in play, particularly if the early going proves successful.

Users will need to download an app first, however, but from there it’s as easy as the name implies. Users can then either pay for the trip before starting out, or the system will automatically deduct the fee from the relevant account afterward.

When you’ve got over a billion people in a space like China, you likely run into a lot of lines, and anything that keeps a line moving briskly is just as likely welcome. QR codes work especially well for speeding up lines. Mobile payments have long been able to trade on their convenience value—after all, all you need to do is just scan a code or touch a machine with a smartphone in many cases—so introducing convenience value to places like Shanghai’s subway system will likely speed up traffic flow and get users where they need to be that much faster.

While some robust security measures will need to be in place—this is a hacker honeypot of staggering proportions—it will ultimately move traffic through faster and make the morning commute a little less of a hassle.